An Almost Cleverly Named HCV Drug to Beat Them All

By: Marcus J. Hopkins, Blogger

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and Gilead Sciences – maker of the most commonly prescribed Hepatitis C (HCV drugs), Sovaldi and Harvoni – came out with yet another fantastic cure for Hepatitis C: Epclusa. What makes this drug a real miracle? Let’s take a look:

Epclusa is the first pan-genotypic HCV therapy, meaning that it works across HCV Genotypes 1-6. This is a potential coup for Gilead, who has faced occasional threats from other manufacturers whose drugs targeted those genotypes that neither Sovaldi, nor Harvoni (alone) addressed. The new ingredient – velpatisvir – is used in combination with the sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) from both of their earlier regimens, which one must assume is what allows it to be used across all genotypes with an average SVR (“cure”) rate of 94%. This advancement, alone, is amazing, given how difficult to treat HCV was a scant four years ago.

The second-best bit of information about Epclusa is its introductory Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC) of “only” $74,760 for twelve weeks of treatment.

Pill bottle of Epclusa medication for Hepatitis C

Photo Source:

Gilead has become the face of congressional-, physician-, advocate-, and payer-led accusations of price gouging, with Sovaldi coming in at $84,000 and Harvoni at $94,500, and they have clearly taken the calculated risk of introducing Epclusa at almost $10k cheaper than one of its component drugs by itself. After three years of price-related bad press, there was great concern within the HCV world that their much lauded pan-genotypic drug was going to easily cost over $100k, and given the range of genotypes it’s used to treat, it stood to reason that this would be the case. Gilead, however, seems to have either learned from their miscalculation of what consumers, states, and insurers were willing to pay, or they’ve decided that the record profits they’ve enjoyed from their previous successes allowed them to offer this new drug as a significantly lower price. Either way, even before discounts and rebates, Epclusa’s price point is a net win for all parties.

My only beef with Epclusa has literally nothing to do with its efficacy or its price; rather, I’m a bit miffed at Gilead for not taking the name one step further to make it truly clever. “Epclusa” is fine, and all – the “-clusa” part clearly referencing its all-in”clus”ive pan-genotypic nature – but they really missed a golden opportunity by not placing an ‘H’ at the beginning, making it “Hepclusa,” allow for both “Hep-“ for “Hepatitis” and the ‘c’ in “-clusa” to serve a dual purpose for “Hep C.” Maybe, it’s the writer in me, but come on guys: if you’re going to be amazing, be amazing all the way.

Disclaimer: HEAL Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Access National Network (CANN), but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about Hepatitis-related issues and updates. Please note that the content of some of the HEAL Blogs might be graphic due to the nature of the issues being addressed in it.


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